Dermatology Services Now Available via Telehealth Technology to UnitedHealthcare Medicaid Beneficiaries in Rhode Island through Thundermist Health Center

December 01, 2016
  • “Teledermatology,” using online technology, gives patients better access to care, and quicker diagnosis and treatment

People enrolled in UnitedHealthcare’s Medicaid plan in Rhode Island may now receive faster diagnosis and treatment of skin disorders using remote digital imaging and telehealth technology through Thundermist Health Center.

Thundermist’s primary care providers are able to deliver more timely diagnosis and treatment of skin disorders through a new e-consultation service. Physicians can capture and transmit digital images of areas of concern during patient exams through a secure, online electronic medical record. The physicians then receive a diagnosis of the health concern within 48 business hours.

Through near real-time consultations with offsite dermatologists, physicians can more quickly diagnose and treat UnitedHealthcare Medicaid patients – especially those who may lack easy access to dermatologists or other specialists – regardless of which medical office they are visiting. According to a 2014 JAMA Dermatology, the average wait time for an in-person appointment is 46 days.

“It was very easy to conduct an electronic consult for my patient, and the results came back very quickly. I simply transmitted a picture of the concern through our medical record, and a licensed dermatologist reviewed it and provided diagnosis and treatment recommendations,” said Dr. Sara Delaporta, the first care provider in Rhode Island to conduct an electronic consult through Thundermist. “This service gives my patients access to extremely timely care.”

“We are collaborating with Thundermist on this innovative technology to ensure our Medicaid members in Rhode Island will have better access to quality care no matter where they live,” said Patrice Cooper, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Rhode Island.

Skin cancer and other skin-related issues are a significant concern in Rhode Island. About 240 Rhode Islanders were diagnosed with melanoma of the skin on average every year from 2007 through 2011, with an average of 33 people dying annually due to melanoma during that same time period.

“We look forward to working with UnitedHealthcare on piloting this great innovation. While many skin conditions are non-life threatening, quick diagnosis and treatment can help individuals heal – and for some with more serious conditions, save their lives,” said Charles Jones, president and CEO of Thundermist. “This system puts more specialty expertise and support in the hands of the primary care provider, avoiding financial and transportation-related barriers to care for our patients.”

Thundermist and UnitedHealthcare worked with Community Health Center’s (CHC) Weitzman Institute of Middletown, Conn., to set up and conduct the electronic consults. Weitzman’s Community eConsult Network (CeCN) is used across the United States by care providers seeking prompt access to high-quality specialty care for their patients. CeCN was developed by practicing primary care physicians and offers consultations in a variety of specialties, including cardiology, orthopedics and pain management. The Jessie B. Cox Trust funded CHC to develop the eConsult Network. In addition, the Trust offered a challenge grant to Thundermist for evaluation of its eConsult adoption.

UnitedHealthcare, a UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) company, is using telehealth technology, care provider networks and benefit plan/reimbursement programs to improve access and health outcomes and reduce costs. UnitedHealthcare offers a broad portfolio of clinical services that use telehealth technology, including consumer-directed, telepsychiatry, remote home monitoring, specialty consultation and other virtual services to assist care providers in evaluating their patients’ clinical needs.

UnitedHealthcare serves nearly 300,000 Rhode Islanders with a network of 17 hospitals and nearly 6,000 physicians and other care providers statewide.